Cretan History

Eltynia

Ancient Eltynia
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The ancient city of Eltynia, Eltyna or Eltynea was dispersed in the present plain of Peza, but its main core was probably located in the current site of the village Kounavi. The main occupation of its inhabitants was viticulture and winemaking, which is still a key sector of the local economy.

The name of the city was confirmed in 1918, when during the opening of a road, a plate of the 6th century BC was found in boustrophedon script and the word "ΕΛΤΥΝΙΟΥΣΙ" (Eltyniousi) which refers to the inhabitants of Eltynia. Since then, fragmentary traces of the city have been found in various places, but there is no organized archeological site, only scattered positions. The most famous place to see is the cemetery in location Vathiades with the only vaulted tomb of the Geometric Age in northern Crete, almost on the road to Peza.

Eltynia took part in the alliance of thirty Cretan towns with the king of Pergamon, Eumenes II, in 183 BC, as an autonomous city. In 259-250 BC, the Eltynians co-signed the treaty of Knossos - Miletus, while their city was included in a resolution of Magnesia of Maeander, at the beginning of the 2nd century BC. The city was almost always under the influence of the neighbouring Knossos and therefore did not mint its own currency.

Doric columns and capitals, inscriptions, potsherds have been found in Eltynia, while 16 tombs with various objects such as vessels, weapons, gold and silver rings were found in the town's cemetery at Vathiades. Near the cemetery was found the grave plate known as "Column of Kounavi" of the 5th-6th century BC, depicting a girl holding a wreath of beads and a flower. Among the finds there is a clay basin with goats and birds on the rim, a large bird in the center and a mourning woman sitting on the wall. Animals and birds seem to be the ideal representation of paradise, the central bird symbolizes the soul of the dead and the woman depicts despair in front of death.

Also of exceptional importance is the inscription of legal content of the 7th-6th century BC, revealed in 1993 near the cemetery that mentions financial transactions. Its significance lies in the fact that it includes the oldest known reference to the Greek alphabet with the term "ποινηκήια", ie "Phoenician", capturing for the first time in an inscription the testimony that the Greek alphabet comes from the Phoenician.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Ancient Settlement
  • Peak Period: Minoan Era (3000 BC-1200 BC), Dark Age (1200 BC - 800 BC), Classical & Hellenistic Age (800 BC - 69 BC)
  • Accessibility: Paved road
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